Letter: Placing a five-star hotel into a two-star country


Dear Sir:

What is a five-star hotel? Typically, high end hotels are rated between one to five stars. At a five-star property, accommodations will boast of excellent staff with exceptional levels of proactive service and customer care, cleanliness, maintenance, hospitality and delivery of services all adhere to an extremely high standard.

Sandals advertise themselves as “the very pinnacle of luxury Caribbean all-inclusive vacations”. They feature unlimited gourmet dining, unique bars serving premium spirits and wines, land and water sport, including complimentary green fees at their golf resorts. It has been reported that they were invited to consider Tobago as a location for one of their resorts.

As a person who has been advocating tourism as one of the pillars for economic transformation, one would think that I would have been happy that the present government took such an initiative. On the contrary I was disappointed as I felt then, and do so even more now, that the present and past governments do not understand what is required to attract the level of tourism that is required to compliment our economic recovery effort.

It has been reported that Sandals could have had the resort constructed within 18 months. I have no doubt that such a schedule was possible. My concern was the status of the island. Tobago is not ready for a Sandals and would not be ready in 18 months or two years. Just over six months ago hotels in Tobago were complaining about the lack of water. Tobago like Trinidad continues to have a very unreliable water supply. The airport, roads, sewer system, security and support services are not in place for large scale luxury accommodation.

Tourism can and ought to be a major initiative of the government, but it must be done right or like the disaster that was the Sandals pull out, the international community will simply laugh at our attempt to lure large quantities of tourists to our islands.

Our number one challenge must be security. Police patrols must be structured and planned rather than ad hoc. Water supply must be reliable. The solution is a gravity fed system with community storage capacity to last at least a week during repairs from source locations. Our roads, air and sea transportation services must at the very least meet or exceed basic international standards. Our beaches must be cleaned daily and park rangers, life guards and guides in uniform must be employed to safely allow tourists to enjoy the facilities. Our sewer and waste water system must allow for thousands of people to use the facilities without impacting the environment or experiencing system failure.

Only when we have covered the basics like toilet facilities along the pathway of bands at carnival parades, proper seating, lighting and sound at shows, access to banking facilities at hotels, public transportation that is fast, reliable and clean, well trained personnel to sell our internationally acclaimed brand of friendliness and service, should we consider asking hotel chains like Sandals to consider our islands as a destination.

If we were to get the basics right, we would not have to ask anyone to come here. They would be knocking at our door wanting to go to our mountain tops, hike through our beautiful forests, paddle through our swamps and rivers, visit our pitch lake and participate in the greatest of street parades our Trinidad and Tobago carnival. If we do not embark on these initiatives, alternatively, we can blame arm chair commentators for forcing providers of luxury living to not invest in our country.

Steve Alvarez
Political Leader of the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago



  1. Trinidad is a puppet of America, and they are constructing those large hotels for European elites, not for you, the average citizen.

    • Sandals is a private company owned by Jamaicans. Most of its customers are young Americans, many of them honeymooners earning an average American income.

      It’s aim is to build high quality all inclusive resorts that will earn it lots of money.

      But some people either hate capital accumulation or are envious of those who succeed in using capitalism’s simple principles to turn a profit.

  2. The two worst elements of the Sandals proposal were

    1) the insistence on the unsuitable choice of its location in an environmentally sensitive area. Despite Sandals proclaiming a track record of “success” with constructing in other sensitive locations, the fact of the matter is that this particular location is unlike any other where they have built. The RAMSAR convention declared it a wetland of “international importance” unlike any other in the region. The devastation which would have followed from bulldozing over 200 acres of wetlands to build 925 rooms for 2 hotels with 5 jetties across the public beach were simply not acceptable.
    Blaming the media for reporting on public criticism of the plan as reason for withdrawing from the project is simply disingenious.

    2) The MOU (memorandum of understanding) was not the final contract. How ever, it was an outline of the understanding of the INTENTION of the parties to agree to these terms. On reading it, it could easily have been a fax sent by Sandals. A one way street. Nothing in it was of benefit to the country or its taxpayers who were footing the bill for a $3billion present for Butch Stewart.

    Tobago, and by extension Trinidad and Tobago, had a narrow escape from a major disaster by turning Sandals away. So when Stewart criticises the citizens as being too political, he is in a snide way recognising that we are aware of what’s going on and are prepared to speak out against outrageously bad govt decisions. We are “woke” as the current slang says.

  3. You got your wish. Sandals has pulled out because of pressure from you and others.

    Happy now that Tobago people will have to suck salt?

    In the resort industry, the whole world is a near single marketplace so this is no great loss to a corporation that should start spreading its wings by flying outside the Caribbean archipelago.

  4. Steve Alvarez you are a hypocrite. You complain of the infrastructure of Trinidad and Tobago which every other Caribbean neighbouring island is well aware when it comes to being developed Trinidad and Tobago is above par to some of these same neighbours who on many occasions has been a source of assistance to them.

    Not intended to knock our Caribbean neighbouring but I can tell you I have travelled to a few and in comparison Trinidad and Tobago is way more advance and yet they have a thriving tourism sector. What they lack in infrastructure they made up in customers service etc which is a culture I am sure was learnt over time

    It’s people like you with your personal political agenda and hunger for power and status who prefers to put people and personalities ahead of the development of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Political parties will come and they will go and that power is in the ciztenry to decide but we the people have to live in our country when they are gone. I hope to see the day when we can put country before our own selfish agenda

    Tobagonians depend mainly on the THA for jobs and any establishment as Sandals would have created much needed jobs for the increasing number of young professionals on the island and even from Trinidad.

    Do you think that Sandals was going into this business to have its resort half full or anything that will harm its reputation…No you fool ( and I make no apologies to say that) they would ensure that the infrastructures are in place to facilitate such a major project and it has been made very public in the public domain about the airport development and the 2 new vessels being built.

    It is people like you that is the problem but than God we are not naive to such ‘cupidness’.

  5. Mr Thompson sorry that you as the average citizen cannot afford these establishment but neither can they a Benz but it does not stop the sale of them on the island or the importation does it. There is a market for everyone.

    And you are so wrong and misleading in your comment because the increase in domestic tourism on the island of Tobago are seeing more people doing staycation with their families than travelling overseas.

    I personally have been doing that more recently and I have been observing a growing trend where persons vacation at home and some with their families in our hotels at home.

    Some persons will opt for the guest houses while others for the hotels.

    So please don’t knock what you don’t know or have experience.


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